Eight Tauranga schools have united to form one of the largest Communities of Learning in the country.
The Ministry of Education initiative seeks to build greater cooperation between local schools.
Five such communities are planned for the Tauranga region, but Oropi School principal Andrew King says Tauranga Peninsula and Otumoetai are the first to be established.
“We formed last year and were endorsed by the Minister of Education, which means we've been able to fill out teacher vacancies for this year. The intention is to focus on the high schools we feed into, which are Tauranga Boys' and Tauranga Girl's College,” he says.
“It's about creating a more seamless pathway from Year 0 to 13, sharing information about learner needs, and achievement challenges we can all work to together to try and address.”
The schools involved are Gate Pa School, Greenpark School, Oropi School, Tauranga Boys' College, Tauranga Girls' College, Tauranga Intermediate, Tauranga Primary School, and Welcome Bay School.
“We've received funding for eight across-school teachers who basically facilitate all the programmes across the community. Altogether there are 41 in-school lead teachers, who put the professional development needs in place and lead initiative.”
It's still early days at the moment, with the main focus currently on planning.
“This term we're profiling and gathering all the information we need to work out how we can help each other to raise student achievement.”
The sharing of knowledge among teachers – what works, what doesn't – is among the appeals of the community.
“In a primary school there might be a really good programme of learning to transition five-year-olds to starting school. So teachers might do workshops with other schools on that. It's the same for Year 8 to Year 9 transitioning.
“We can also look at aligning testing and assessment better, as well as better sharing of student achievement.”
He says the Communities of Learning represent a change in thinking about the way state education is delivered.
“This is a major shift from the Tomorrow's Schools era that began in 1989, when competition became a notable feature of the system. Now we're looking at being more collaborative.”